Occupy Toronto: How Media Viewed the Movement

The “occupy Toronto” movement gained rapid momentum with the publicity it received from all avenues of media: print, television, radio, and more recently, social networking sites. Each avenue reported the event from a different perspective. Almost all newspapers analyzed were very critical of the agenda and overall message of the movement, while some newspapers were supportive of the message and praised the movement for reviving older issues such as social inequality and raising new ones like the enhancement to the education system. In this blog, I will set out to analyze the misconceptions the media created through the use of two frames: Disruption, Ignorance and Amalgam of grievance. Then, I will provide a critique of these frames and how the media influenced society’s view on the movement. Finally, I will discuss the consequences of inaccurate reporting which misrepresented the movement’s mandates and deteriorated the protestors.

Frames: what was said and how it affected thinking 

The media outlets mainly used three frames throughout this movement. Almost all articles that were analyzed provided discourse on the issue of Disruption. The newspapers heavily reported of people who were unpleased by the protesters as they were affecting their everyday livelihood. In an interview with CBC a local business owner stated that “the main problem is that they have taken away our neighbourhood park, you can’t walk your dog, you can’t read a book on the bench” (CBC News 2011). However, these statements do not express the views of all merchants in the area. In fact, the title of the article “Occupy camp hurting business, says BIA head” is misleading because it does not talk about the merchants but in fact provides a singular anecdote from one individual. Moreover, other articles attempt to discredit the movement by including statements from unidentified sources which state that “we have drug addicts that have nowhere else to go” (The National CBC news 2011). This not only diminishes the movement’s message but also creates a stigma that the movement is a safe haven for drug users who are gathered together to cause problems for the law abiding citizens.

The second frame is the ignorance frame. This was the most evident and popular frame detected in all articles analyzed. During this frame, the media attempts to delegitimize the protestors by labelling them uninformed and their causes and believes ignorant. This frame reinforced the class divide in society. One of the articles states that “The occupy movement has no single objective, but addressing economic equality and corporate greed are among its slated claims” (CBC News 2011). Furthermore, most analyzed articles shared the view that “mainly young people and a handful of adults of older adults many with ideals, some with specific grievances” are the main participants of the movement (Flayelle 2011). By publishing such statements, the media narrowed the movement’s message as being predominantly represented by uneducated and youth. Ultimately, this notion shaped popular discourse for society where people viewed the movement as a plea for work. Some citizens stated that “want to help the economy? Get to work “(Rider 2011). Furthermore, most articles analyzed shard the opinion that the movement does not provide concrete problems but instead oppose corporations without providing reasonable solutions (Flayelle 2011). Essentially, the popular belief stated that Canada does not have the same issues as our southern Neighbour; instead, our system is flawless. We have free healthcare, our education is system is progressive and our employment opportunities are improving. The media stated that the protestors were fighting for causes and issues faced by the US and Canadians do not face the same issues.

Despite proposing progressive solutions, the movement was downplayed through the use of amalgam of grievances frame. Through this frame, the media outlets declare the messages and causes as disparate. The movement suggested “transit subsidy for low-income households, indexing the minimum wage, more after school programs for the kids in underserved areas” (Goar 2012). The author perceives these solutions as unrealistic and not in accordance with the values of the current political party in power. Furthermore, this idea is further reinforced when in an interview with CBC News the same individual discussed in an earlier example states that “ if the end goal is for the world to be a better place, we’re going to be a long time waiting for it and where does that leave us in the meantime” (CBC News 2011). This is the perfect example of the popular beliefs held by most citizens who viewed the movement as a backwards progressing movement lacking in direction and focal leadership. Furthermore, this idea reinforced the values that not all citizens are interested in closing the gap between the poor and middle classes of our society.

Upon close analysis, it is evident that the media outlets were successful in achieving two things: discrediting the movement and providing a false balance. Majority of the analyzed articles deviated from reporting on the core issues of the movement and instead focused solely on the issue of occupancy of Bay Street and St. James Park. Furthermore, while researching, majority of the articles written by popular press were on the issue of eviction notices issued by various judges due to the urging efforts made by Mayor Rob Ford. Citizens of all backgrounds were represented in the movement but the media through close selection provided a false balance by only reporting on the minority of homeless and drug addicts who sought a shelter and food in the movement’s camps. Furthermore, the structure of most articles provided a specific and repetitive negative view of the movement ultimately influencing the citizens and their opinions on the movement. The movement revived shelved issues such as income equality and better employment opportunities and also brought forth emerging issues such as enhancement to extra-curricular for youths in poor neighbourhoods. The state expectedly did not take interest in entertaining these efforts but instead sought to police them and ultimately reinforcing itself as the dominant power who upholds the decision making power in our society. Furthermore, strategically through the use of media, the state reinforced the distinction between self-regulating citizens and those who go against the norm and the consequences they endure in the process.


CBC News.2011. “Occupy camp hurting business, says BIA head”. CBC News, October 11. Retrieved on December 9, 2012 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/10/31/occupy-toronto-merchants.html)

Flavelle, Dana.2011. “Occupy Toronto meets a plan protest on Oct 15: Big banks are the problem and power must be taken from them, speaker tells gathering of 250” The Toronto Star, October 15. Retrieved December 8, 2012 (http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/cbcacurrent/docview/896689303/13AEBCC36D22AD654A3/34?accountid=15182)

Goar, Carol.2012. “Is the Occupy Toronto movement a spent force” The Toronto Star, February 12. Retrieved on December 8, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1129723–is-the-occupy-toronto-movement-a-spent-force)

OPSEU. 2011. “Ford Takes needless shots at Occupy Toronto: OPSEU”.OPSEU, December 2. Retrieved on December 7, 2012.( http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/cbcacurrent/docview/907551138/13AEC53487A7C02A456/69?accountid=15182)

Rider, David. 2011. “Occupy Toronto a haven for homeless” The Toronto Star, November 17. Retrieved December 8, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1088853–occupy-toronto-a-haven-for-homeless)

The National- CBC Television.2011. “Occupy Toronto is planning to stay through the winter.” The National-CBC Television 2011, November 7, 2011. Retrieved on December 7, 2012 (http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/cbcacurrent/docview/902574242/13AEC35FE773F525D1E/30?accountid=15182



  1. I must say that your media analysis of the Occupy Toronto movement is very accurate. The fact that the media is not being an objective source of information but rather an opinion masqueraded as news. It discredits the movement through the de-legitimization of the protesters as bandits who disrupts the daily life of the law abiding citizens. The 1% are waging a war on dissent!


  2. marcsinclair2013 · · Reply

    Hi Meesue,

    I’m a tad confused because you simply reiterated my original question. The original poster made mention that the media spoke of drug users to “diminish” the movements credibility not least because the camps were known by some as a “safe haven” for drug users. My question was an effort to critique this line of thinking. Of course drug users are part of the 99%. They, too, have much to contribute to this and all movements.

    I hope that clears things up.




    1. Hi Marcsinclair2013,

      I’m not reiterating your original question, but as I said, it is relating to your original question. What I wanted to ask is how the media has constructed the “99%” the movement is suppose to represent. It is an analysis of how the media has created this “other” which further affects the image of the movement and what they are suppose to stand for. I also want to clarify that I am not criticizing the movement itself as being a safe haven for drug users either. And I agree with you and believe that drug users are a part of the movement and they have much to contribute.

      You ask: “To what extent can some drug user issues be understood as class issues?” Which is a good question but I think it can be further examined by looking at power dynamics – such as the power of the media to portray drug users and the movement in a certain way. And through these power dynamics, other issues such as “othering” and nation-building are also used to create an even larger divide. What I am interested in is discussing the process the media uses to delegitimize the movement, and overall what implications does it bring?

      Hope this clarifies things.



  3. It is interesting that you pointed out that the media portrayed a society where “not all citizens are interested in closing the gap between the poor and middle classes of our society” while the slogan of the movement was “we are the 99%.” In my opinion, the media has even further created a divide and attack on who the 99% really are. A further discussion question could be: Who are included in the 99% and what characteristics must one possess to be included? And relating to the question posted by Marcsinclair2013: Are drug users not part of the 99% of people living in poverty and income disparity? How has the media constructed the 99% to represent? What are the implications from it?


  4. marcsinclair2013 · · Reply

    Great piece! I particularly enjoyed your discussion of disruption/ignorance frames. What really caught my attention was your discussion of drug users that tarnished the movement’s perception.
    Do you think that, with regards to drug users, this type of discussion could also be understood through an ignorance frame? Can drug users, too, be apart of a social movement? To what extent can some drug user issues be understood as class issues?



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